Top Ten Movie Deaths

I pondered for a while about how to preface this list, but its pretty self-explanatory. Death is a pretty beautiful thing when it comes to cinema. There are deaths in film that, when due to great performances, direction and writing, you get unbearably powerful moments. This is a list of those deaths. This is a list dedicated to my favorite deaths in film because of their meaning and power, not necessarily the ones that are remembered in cinema history as classics, such as the shower scene in Psycho or King Kong falling off the Empire State Building. While those are amazing moments in film, they just didn’t affect me like the deaths in this list.

 

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

 

 

!!!IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ONE OF THE MOVIES LISTED, DON’T READ INTO IT!!!

 

 

!!!SPOILER ALERT!!!

 

10. John Doe (SE7EN)

There aren’t many moments that you can truly say, based on their content, leave you gasping for air. The death of the villain, John Doe, in SE7EN is undoubtedly one of those moments. We never see this character until the end of the movie, but nevertheless, we fear him. We get to know the detectives on the case and we keep guessing what the end could be. What we do get is fantastically dark and real. If you’re looking for a prime example of a villain winning, this is it.

9. Ra’s Al Ghul (Batman Begins)

The death of Bruce Wayne’s mentor and eventual enemy is an undeniably memorable one. What makes this death such a spectacular one is in the way that the wise leader of the league of shadows attempts to gain dignity from his death with the line “Have you finally learned to do what is necessary?” He’s trying to show that he’s actually taught the man known as Batman very well. Batman shows the true colors of both characters with his reply, “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you.”

8. Lester Burnhum (American Beauty)

What makes Lester Burnhum’s death so awesome isn’t the actual death itself. Lester’s death is made significant based on the events before and the magnificent final monologue of the movie. You find out right in the beginning that this character we’re being introduced to is going to die by the end. It’s not the “what” that we’re interested in because we know what’s going to happen, what we are concerned about are the “who” and the “why”. We get the answers we need and few things in film are as pleasing.

7. Tyler Durden (Fight Club)

Fight Club is one of my favorite films in general so it was really a no-brainer when it came to putting the stunning death of one the greatest characters in film on this list. The relationship between the Narrator and Tyler Durden is one of the most special and interesting ever filmed. Throughout Fight Club we get to know these characters and know them well. By the end we know what has to happen and the death of the final scene which results in the death of Tyler Durden completely blows me away  every single time.

6. Frank (Once Upon a Time in the West)

It seems that because of Sergio Leone’s brilliant film, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, his other masterpiece, “Once Upon a Time in the West”, is often overlooked. I do slightly prefer “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, but there is one aspect of “Once Upon a Time in the West” that is better and that is in the black-hearted villain, Frank. He’s one of the most despicable villains ever filmed and there are few moments in film that are as satisfying as the realization of the extent of his wrath and his immediate death right afterwards. Truly breathtaking cinema.

5. Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator)

At the heart of the epic film Gladiator is a tale of well-deserved revenge. We fall in love with the protagonist Maximus and we grow to hate the villainous basterd he’s aiming to kill. Now that begs the question, why wouldn’t I put the satisfying death of the villain Commodus on this list? The reason is because the more emotionally powerful death belongs to Maximus Decimus Meridius. Yes, Commodus needs to die and burn in hell, but now Maximus’ mission is complete. His death was necessary because now he can go live in peace with his son and daughter in the afterlife.

4. Little Bill Daggett (Unforgiven)

Unforgiven is a western centered on the two characters William Munny and Little Bill Daggett. Throughout this masterfully crafted film we learn the true natures of both characters and learn that the line between right and wrong isn’t always clear. Not till the very end of the film do the two characters finally meet and the better man is established. “I’ll see you in hell William Munny,” Little Bill says with pure honesty and hate in his eyes and before William Munny fires the final fatal bullet into Little Bill’s head, he replies with a sorrowful, “Yeah”. It’s one of those moments in film that make movies worth watching.

3. Roy Batty (Blade Runner)

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…” is the start of one of the greatest movie quotes ever put one screen and the beginning of the final words of the character Roy Batty. Blade Runner is a film that asks many of life’s big questions, but those questions don’t come to true and beautiful light until the final encounter between protagonist Rick Deckard and philosophical replicant Roy Batty. It’s the most powerful scenes in film.

First, Roy just toys with his advisory and when Rick tries to escape by hopping to another rooftop he isn’t able to make it and nearly dies. The true nature of the character Roy is shown when he is able to make the jump easily and save Rick, but not before he puts Deckard’s mission in life into perspective, with the line “Quite an experience to live in fear isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave. Then he utters his memorable final words and reaches the end of his time.

2. Col. Walter E. Kurtz (Apocalypse Now)

Apocalypse Now is, without a shred of doubt, a staple in the art of filmmaking. While, the death of Col. Walter E. Kurtz is a triumph all its own. The main character, Captain Willard, is sent on a mission deep into cambodia in order to find and terminate a renegade Colonel who has taken command over the locals. We are taken on a journey into the true meaning of madness and on the way our anticipation grows like Captain Willard and all we want to do is finally meet Col. Kurtz.

Because of a truly brilliant performance by Marlon Brando, every single line Kurtz utters is memorable and resonant. That goes especially for one of my favorite movie quotes, his powerful last words, “The horror, the horror.” On my first viewing of the film, right at that moment I thought to myself, “this is one of the greatest films ever made”. And it truly is. From the beginning, Apocalypse Now promises an amazing climax and gives you just that. It was difficult for me not to put this in the number one slot.

1. Bill (Kill Bill)

Look back at numbers 3 and 2 of this list and you’ll notice that they share something with number 1. All three movies have generally simple tales, sure like all great filmmakers they establish deeper meanings, but the structure is simple. Rick Deckard, a retired Blade Runner is sent on a mission to kill four replicants (androids) led by Roy Batty, Captain Benjamin Willard is sent into Cambodia to kill Col. Kurtz and Beatrix Kiddo is out for revenge against her former boss and lover Bill.

From the beginning, we know, if we are to be satisfied that is, that Roy Batty, Col. Kurtz and Bill will die. There are many examples of films where we know what might happen at the end, but we want to know how our hero will get there and how exactly they’ll do the deed, whether its Frodo throwing the ring of power into Mt. Doom or Batman saving Gotham from the evil clutches of the Joker. In this case, we’re talking about deaths in film and no death is as magnificent and significant as the death of Bill in the 4-hour-epic Kill Bill.

What makes Bill’s death profound, innovative and beautiful is the unconditional love shared between the two warriors. Their fight is inevitable and both, Bill and Beatrix, realize that one is going to die, while the other will live on, but that doesn’t mean they still can’t care for one another. And in the end, Bill isn’t stabbed or shot, no, that wouldn’t satisfy. Instead Beatrix perform’s something called the five point palm exploding heart technique, which makes your heart explode from the inside after you take five steps. This allows him to have a few words with the love of his life, take a deep breath, button his coat and walk with dignity to the greatest movie death in film history.

Top Ten Westerns

This is a list I’ve truly been prepping for, for about a year now. About a year ago I had only seen a couple westerns that I had actually enjoyed (a few of those made this list), and I realized as a lover of movies I have not seen nearly enough westerns. So, I filled my netflix queue and got to watching and enjoying. I realized two things while watching the many westerns I did.

First of all, I’m quite sorry to say and I know many won’t agree with this statement and might even just X out of this page as soon as they read it, but an opinion’s an opinion and I’m not gonna lie to agree with society. I found John Wayne to be overrated. I’m just not a fan. I liked a few of his movies, such as The Searchers and The Shootist, and my favorite would probably have to be The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but that didn’t even make the list. It probably would be 11 or 12 though if I were to add on to this list.

Secondly, and much more importantly, I realized that the Western genre is one of my favorites and this list would be harder to make than I thought. I was very right. Through watching this dying genre I found not only fantastic westerns, but also some of the greatest movies I’ve seen of all time. Well, I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time now. Here are my top ten favorite westerns.

10. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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At the heart of this classic lies what may be the most iconic duo of all time. Paul Newman and Robert Redford play so impeccably well off each other that every scene is made real and memorable. The timing of every witty crack is absolutely perfect, the action sequences are highly entertaining, while sticking to realism and the finale is breathtaking.

9. Tombstone

Tombstone is a fantastic film that  was a shoe in for this list. Tombstone is the greatest telling of the now classic tale of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. There are many memorable parts, from the classic OK coral shoot-out, to Holiday’s tricks with a tea cup in a bar. There’s something for everyone in this flick because even if you don’t find solace in the fantastic scenes, you will certainly find enjoyment out of Val Kilmer’s masterful performance as Doc Holiday.

8. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

This is one of the newest westerns to be placed on this list and in my eyes this movie is a breath of fresh air because it showed that great westerns can still be made today. Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck are phenomenal. A brilliant cast and script was combined to tell the very true and quite epic tale of the assassination of one of the most famous western outlaws there ever was.

7. For A Few Dollars More

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For A Few Dollars More is a fascinating character study of bounty hunters in the old west. It’s the second film in Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name Trilogy, but as with every movie in the Dollars trilogy, it stands alone as its own fantastic story. Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef make for a very interesting and entertaining pair in the old west. Leone builds tension, keeps you guessing, and in the end he most certainly does not disappoint.

6. The Proposition

The Proposition is another western that is relatively new. It was made only a few years ago and I believe it is one of the greatest westerns of all time, only surpassed by some of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. The plot of The Proposition is genuinely simple, yet superbly poetic. In the Australian Outback, a man is hired to kill his older brother in order to save his younger one from the noose. It’s the most brutal western I’ve seen and it never lets up till its pitch-perfect ending.

5. True Grit

The Coen Brother’s never cease to amaze and with their remake of the now classic John Wayne movie, they do more than that. True Grit is undoubtedly the most light-hearted of their films I’ve seen and the most light-hearted western. It’s also the one that feels the most real. Like almost all westerns, True Grit tells a simple tale, but because of the people who are telling the tale, what you get is something unbelievably moving.

4. Once Upon a Time in the West

Sergio Leone’s complex, gritty, western tale of revenge and mayhem is so amazing that it was hard to even put it at just number three. I’m going to say this right now, Sergio Leone builds tension better than Hitchcock does. Every single scene from the (waiting for the train) opening to the final showdown, your always on edge. I’d also like to say that Ennio Morricone is probably the greatest film composer in history. Westerns almost always have fantastic scores, but this is my favorite of any western score.

Last, but certainly not least I have to mention Henry Fonda’s flawless performance as the ruthless western gunslinger Frank, certainly out of character for him; his best work. This is some of Sergio Leone’s best work. A film that builds and builds with a well thought out, detailed and at times even complex plot that ends up being a very simple tale of good vs. evil. Sergio Leone’s masterpiece is the third greatest western I’ve seen.

3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Most commonly called the classic western and for good reason. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is nothing and I repeat nothing short of a masterpiece. If I’m not mistaken I think the Man With No Name trilogy is the only trilogy that truly gets greater with each film. Leone’s skill for building tension, which has been attempted, but never matched, was never greater than in every single, intricately plotted, scene of this movie.

What Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood (Blondie-The Good) , Lee Van Cleef (Angel Eyes-The Bad) and Eli Wallach (Tuco- The Ugly) have given us is masterful look at the west, the adventures, and the subsequent stories that were inspired. A story full of depth and characters, whether that be the good guys, the bad guys, and the ones in between. A timeless epic that savors my hunger for excellence with each passing scene eventually leading to what is probably the most iconic and greatest western showdown/ending ever put on screen. And for this, from the bottom of my heart, I thank them.

2. Django Unchained

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Django Unchained is about a hero of mythical proportions on a quest for love. It’s a tale of friendship and taking a stand against the savagery of slavery. It’s a spaghetti western and an epic legend with all the blood and violence of the west and the heroes and villains you find in legends. It’s finds a balance between the intense drama that’s playing out and the rollicking good time that it is. It’s a magnificent story as only Quentin Tarantino could’ve told.

It’s hard not to root for Django in his vengeful and loving journey. It’s hard to to jump up and cheer when the whip or gun is turned back on the slaver. Dr. King Schultz can see slavery for what it is and he sees Django as a man and a friend in need. Only together can they attempt to conquer the Candyland and the ignorant villainy that lies within. Django Unchanged is ridiculously entertaining and unbelievably powerful.

1. Unforgiven

As I said in the past, this was a difficult list to make, but there is not a doubt in my mind when it comes to number one. Clint Eastwood starred in many classic westerns including Sergio Leone’s classic Man With No Name Trilogy. Then he directed some of his own great westerns. His knowledge on the genre grew over years of experience and he eventually gave us the greatest western of all time. Unforgiven is the western that was able to do what no other western was able to. It showed us what the west really was. Unforgiven showed us that a ruthless killer could fall off his horse or miss a shot.

Unforgiven shows the realistic West where no one could really be considered the good guy, not even the guy your rooting for (William Munny- Clint Eastood in an Oscar nominated performance) ,  and especially not the sheriff (Little Bill Dagget- Gene Hackman in an Oscar winning performance). Unforgiven was a masterful look into a world we’ve never seen. We thought we had, but we realize now that was all just fantasy. Unforgiven mixes dark realism with the  fantasy Western genre. Add brilliant acting and characters, fantastic writing and direction and the result is not only the greatest western of all time, but one of the greatest movies ever made. A true masterpiece of our time worthy of recognition and praise.